Monday, January 31, 2005

a few new choons

I bought totally HOTTT boots. plus a stack of dancehall records today.

The new crop of singers' names continues to be really funny. There is both a singer named "Voice Mail" and one named "Busy Signal." Hee.

But Mr. G on the "middle east" riddim (Hold up, Wait a Minute, Let me put some Pimpin' in it), the free up, the Klymaxx riddim, and is also good, with a wet-clap sound, a sort of xylophone bit and Capleton doing a sort of busta rhymes/snaggle puss imitation interspersed with the usual fire stuff.. and Double Barrell beepin away.

Plus the new Goldspot productions 12" - one side of which is crap boring conventional house, of the kind that the NY 2step scene retreated to in a colossal failure of musical nerve.. (shuddering memory of Benny Ill of Horsepower playing in NYC, and playing a grand total of 3 tunes that weren't straight house of the kind you can hear every night. I can't comment on the quality of the house, I shudder because I listened to all of it while waiting for something interesting. bleh.) Anyway the other side is sort of oddly dubbed-out and glitchy beats that just escape being grime. nice... and it's got what sound like north-african samples.

Friday, January 28, 2005

what's that sound

I've been well out of the "drumnbass" scene for quite a while, for various reasons. I'd sample a few records here and there, sift through used sections for classic jump-up, look for familiar names at Amoeba, and at the local dj record place (no grime, no breakcore, nothing more out there than whatever comes in their Planet Mu/ Rephlex delivery) and poke dispiritedly through whatevers' listed in the Ragga section. I haven't gone to a night that advertised itself as drumnbass in ages, because I'd been so unhappy with the music whenever I did.

But last Friday I ended up at Subscience crew's at the Sublounge (my fellow-resident/organizer for our new monthly plays there as well) in SF. I wandered downstairs to the Dnb room for a while, after feeling it vibrate up through the floorboards.. And you know? it almost caught me.

I don't know what you call it - it's extremely aggressive, and techy, but with more melodic basslines. Fewer operatic synth sections than Pendulum (whom I almost like, for being the Queen of dnb, but can't actually listen to for long, and really can't dance to). But what was entertaining was that the super-obvious, heavy handed breakdowns that have become de rigeur for dnb, are becoming so heavy, so drawn out, so extreme, that they are longer than the dance sections. The usually-so-predictable song structure seems to be breaking apart, and people stand around confused on the dancefloor for minutes at a time. While a bassline careens down, pitches up, there's a 4-measure pause, a distorted howling sample, another bassline, another pause, and then the beats kick in double-time.
It still takes itself too seriously, and still relies on limp and cheesy synth sounds or sentimental vocal samples for contrast to all the chungity-chunga-zing-boom.. but it's starting to be genuinely abstract. In another way, I was thinking of a more ponderous take on the minimal grime sound.

In relation to drumnbass conventions, what I thought about afterwards was how it was like Chopin. What I remember from my piano days (ok, back 17 years ago or so) was how Chopin was in one way the height of a very particular form, the romantic form. Form had rules and conventions, tons of them. But one of the conventions was embellishment, which his music takes to such an extreme that the embellishments start breaking down any usual conception of time-signature or ratio of embellishment to "main tune." So in a way he points to modernism, just through extending what some people think of as the worst that goes on in the music.

What's also funny is that I'm back where I started with having almost no idea who's making the records that are being played. I know names, and can identify a few (Pendulum for example), but I have to actually describe the sounds when talking about the music. Which I usually try to do, and I wish more djs in dnb did, because I think they'd buy better records (or make them) if they were actually thinking about how tunes sounded instead of just whether it is the latest by xyz, or whether it's a dubplate. Or what kind of processor was used. or whatnot.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

seeding, spreading, sowing together

The Sunday version of the UK Guardian-Observer has an endearingly/irritatingly whimsical article describing several of not-quite-file-sharing systems managed online.

First he describes etree.org, a site that lets you post a list of recordings you would trade for other recordings (I think you actually trade copies and not the originals, and you do it by mail). He says: "It's not really legal but has a fairly clear self-imposed moral code that has kept it at the bottom of the to-do list of the label lawyers and copyright cops - no money changes hands, no commercially available material is allowed to be traded."

Echoes of Grateful Dead bootleg traders. Apparently the GD did not prosecute people who traded music as fans, but did prosecute people who sold them outright. This sparked my old grump about Metallica, self-righteously going after pirates while not recognizing the role of bootlegging and piracy in their own fame - I remember when NO radio stations would play Metallica! It was the fans, the pirates, who kept interest up and spread the word about Metallica, copying and trading tapes. Although Lars Ulrich makes an argument (more familiar in Europe) that artists have a right to control what happens to their music.. I think they didn't have the ability to control it back then, they just didn't care because it helped them, building a fan base so loyal and willing to spend money on them that they eventually had the ability to sign with a major but still own their own master tapes, a fact that allows them to profit from suing people for infringement now. I admit the fans copying now are maybe not all the same as the fans that made them strong back then, but the argument on Ulrich's side is pretty weak (and weakened further by his pedrsistent equation of copying with stealing - as if you could measure the effects of copying that simply).

O for some sociologists to do a study of metallica fans from the 1980s and their social norms around taping shows and copying the tapes..

Anyway, back to the article. He describes two more complex and interesting systems than etree: audioscrobbler.com and last.fm..

For both, you download a program which works while you are playing music on your computer - it simultaneously uploads NOT the files you are playing, but a list of the artists and titles of the tracks, and compiles them into a chart, and adds them to a central chart "which always seems to have Radiohead on top."

He says: "The really sexy bit is that it compares my tastes to other people's on the system and gives me the charts and recently played lists of people whose tastes are statistically close to mine. So I visit the page of a person whose tastes are 40 per cent the same as mine and take a look at what makes up the 60 per cent I don't play myself. Last.fm takes the whole thing a step further. The site uses the statistics from audioscrobbler to stream a radio station to your machine based on the same calculation that you'll like the same stuff as other people with broadly the same tastes."

One interesting policy implication for me is that the author speaks of these activities in the context of "the future of radio." Embedded in this (and maybe there's an English thing here- do they usually think of these issues in the context of radio?) is an assumption that downhillbattle and others state more explicitly: that there is a similarity between online publishing and broadcasting. I see that analogies with broadcasting could perhaps provide more useful legal precedents for fair-use arguments. It gives you more of a chance to brings in the rights of the public, and of fans, and of genre and music communities in a way that the fair-use arguments based in libraries and photocopying do not.

An idea I'm hoping to get more into as a scholar is presaged here: These systems allow you to connect with other people you musically 'overlap' with and broaden your taste on their recommendations. Reminds me of the fun I've had "browsing hosts" with Limewire and using their chat function to meet crazed breakcore fan/producers in Edmmonton, Alberta (big up!)..or find out who has my mix in Belgium.. and also sitting in Berlin with the Society Suckers and watching them chat via soulseek with producer/fans all over the frickin globe.

Capitalizing on a sense of cameraderie based in fandom, taste, maybe identity? Something I don't think has been discussed or explored in terms of public interest. Hey, a niche, maybe?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

canon fire

So my favorite Ethnomusicologist/MC/producer/music blogger is teaching a class at Harvard Extension Division on electronic music. That fact got published on several blogs, with links to his syllabus. The syllabus link has now reached discussion boards in various musical genres. I want to take off from a particular tone I hear in some of the comments.

As I began writing in a comment on his blog, one thing that jumped out at me from the chat was how several people talk about "they" when talking about the syllabus. "They've left out this artist" "They've linked to this site."

Folk don't generally write about a blog entry like that. Formality of a syllabus in a university - heard as an alien structure. The "they" made me laugh for a minute, though.. I wasn't seeing it as a much different than a music blog. Wayneandwax, working, producing, chatting musician, a "they" like Harvard? hee. Maybe the parallel would be online music mags - which, if there is no author given, people usually discuss as "they."

Still, set off a train of thought: Academics, and folks involved in academia have been involved in music, and certainly electronic music for a long time. On the pop and underground side as well as the compositional side. There a sense in which it sounds like some folk are shoring up a sense of authenticity against academia, which sick split is largely false. On the specific side, himself has been involved in music, producing, mc-ing, writing about, promoting and teaching on as many (or more) levels than you can think of.

But beyond defending the cat himself (who needs it not), I think the concept of authenticity, and hackles-raising on its behalf, needs some airing out.

So there's that sense that the world of scholarship is not the world of the music discussed in these boards. In terms of formal academia, not so true, I say again. Not that academics run tings by any means (and thank heaven for that), but folks have brought their academic skills to bear in music and vice versa.

Also hearing an implication that critiquing system/genre, --standing apart and attempting to analyze what's happening with a certain musical sound, is not authentic, is too alienated or something. Cha, easiest to debunk since precisely this is a frame MCs and producers regularly set up (Wot U Call it?).

Lastly, and most powerfully, I think there's the critique of academia discussing these musics from a place of privilege, of power. In some cases of race specifically, white people writing about black music. These are important things to be sensitive to. But they are usually pretty complicated, mixed-up situations. I go with my gut, gold-starring sincerity rather than authenticity. Also gold-star results: what grows out of the sound, the act? Simply locating the institutions doesn't actually tell you that much about the people whom come out of them -- Harvard, while as clearly the belly of the Beast as any institution in the US, has also given us a good many brilliant subversive artists of color, for example dj /rupture. So it's always more complicated.

To drop to the specifics again, if you're going to talk about power, then you have to be clear about who's actually got it, and what he's doing with it. Then, as himself says, there's understanding what happens in a class, and a syllabus. Hold your fire, not a canon, but a syllabus.

Friday, January 21, 2005

for those paying attention..

Maybe you occasionally stick your musical nose above the radar, and worry about the legality of how you get and share music? Maybe you don't worry about it. Either way, the RIAA seems pretty random and ridiculous in its targets. Suing pre-teens for downloading. Most of this seems pretty US-based. But there are suits against some folks outside the US, based on their violation of US (c) laws (that are not enforced in the sued-person's country). Weird as this seems, the Australian Project Gutenberg case is one example.

It seems to me that lawsuits from the RIAA or mega-corporations against individuals in the third world/the Global South may not happen too often, but someone correct me if I'm wrong. It's obvious from what I can see that local folks and peeps in the global south are still doing their thing(s), which often relates little to US or internationally supported concepts of music ownership and control. (true for many subcultures here as well). The top-down enforcement of TRIPS/ US-style IP law is offensive, but also possibly ineffective, at least with respect to music? Anyone want to testify here?

The TRIPS agreement theoretically allows the WTO to bludgeon countries more effectively than private lawsuits, anyway. Membership is contingent on signing on to teh TRIPs agreement, which makes each country responsible for enforcing IP laws in locally, regardless of their usefulness or relation to local practices and needs. Still, the World Intellectual Property Organization has begun to unbend, a little, so maybe there's hope.

Another casualty of the anti peer-to-peer legal movement is privacy. I'd not be happy to find that my ISP can be forced to give up your information to governments or parties in a legal dispute, or held liable for the activities of its clients. Of course ISPs can block or ban anything they choose, anyway.

Luckily, for now that aspect is being defended by the Eighth Circuit, at least for your actual name. However, the RIAA is now suing "John Does" by IP address. you can go to the EFF's Database of subpoenas to see if your IP address was subpoena'ed by the RIAA.

But as for the legality of peer to peer file sharing in general, the Supreme Court of the US is about to take it on: March 29, 2005 is the date for the oral argument in MGM v. Grokster for March 29, 2005. The EFF is defending StreamCast Networks, the company behind the Morpheus peer-to-peer (P2P) software, against 28 of the world's largest entertainment companies. More information on their site about the case, and the issues involved.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Deadbeat/Monolake/ Olive/Once11

Just got back from a little show out in Hunter's Point at Recombinant Media Labs. Asphodel's mothership, a glowing dome inside a corrugated box at the end of a dirt road.

We'd gathered at the gate with mostly skinny-pants'ed folk, as the 2 jolly security guys told us we had to wait before going down the road to the venue. We shivered, though I had brought tea with chai-honey in it and sucked it down steaming, wished friends happy new year (big up dhamaal crew and assorted heads).

Logan5, Kid Kameleon and I came to the early show, since we'd all got work looming on tuesday. Turns out we were lucky to do it. half an hour later we all trudged down the dirt road.. last time I made a trek in a crowd on unpaved streets to music the pants had been bigger, the trek longer, and the air much warmer. We all compared memories and stood in a line for a bit longer.

The show itself? Quite nice. Once11 had told us yesterday he was tring to pull dub together that sounded right but was using costa rican and other non-jamaican music. I couldn't name the samples or their origins, or whatever he was getting from where, but it swung pretty nicely, kinda ambiently. I heard him say he'd written it all this past week, and I'd believe it. Not that it has to be otherwise, but it was a touch formless. Olive's tracks also ran a bit long and linear for me, but had good undulant dancehall beats underneath, with warmer sounds riding it and strings and strums skipping along the top.

Deadbeat's set was pretty great. It was actually a bit warmer and more melodic than I had hoped... I'm drawn to the Rhythm-and-sound minimal, chilly sparkling dub. There were more guitar sounds, more vocals, and melody.. but still, the crackling production and frictionless (without being slippery or slick) bass tones held us all (who'd made it inside the small space) aglow.

monolake was slightly breakier than I had expected, and the dubbish sounds were welcome. But something about the short cycles of beats means I just don't feel moved to dance, and wished I could recline instead of leaning against an equipment rack on the cement floor where the carpet ran out. We left right before the show was due to end, only to find a quintet of cops standing around outside in the process of shutting the show down for some reason or other. Just like New York!

"Be careful" said one of them, with relish "it's a dangerous neighborhood around here." Yeah, I wonder why all of you are shutting down this event instead of making it less dangerous. Not that I'm convinced by their mission in the first place, but keeping the world safe from underground parties seems to be a big focus of police these days.

Monday, January 10, 2005

"I had to get rich so I could sing like I was poor again."

I've always had respect for Dolly Parton. She's fought her way through a lot of shit, from a dirt-poor background and has come out of it a hell of a worker, a hell of a performer, super-funny, and generally got her shit together.

In an interview in the Guardian, she talks a bit about how she handles the rights to her songs, so she has the independence to record tunes she likes.

She pays her own recording costs, then leases her songs to the Sugar Hill label. Because she doesn't depend on the label to fund her recording costs before the songs are written, she can sing what she likes. Of course, it's because she's rich she can afford to fund her own recording, but also it's because she's famous and a strong brand that a label would take a chance on leasing her tunes. Still, it's another window into how the music industry works. And how hard it is to sing music popular among (or that speaks to) the not-rich.

"I had to get rich so I could sing like I was poor again"

Sunday, January 09, 2005

fun party, not the best set

The Noodle Factory is a great space. There were 3 rooms, a nice mix of people, a lot of Dancehall representing (big up Kwame and Uncle Ouija), due to some communications breakdown I ended up playing substantially earlier than I thought.

Note: when the Soundguy is drunk, and tests the sound system with techno, there may be problems. I realised a few minutes in that the needles were feeding back like hell, and continued to for the whole set. Anything with bass.. whoooommmmm.... Forgot to ask Kid Kameleon for his needles (when he went up -and KILLED it- later in the night switching the needles helped a lot). Wasn't so much overtones, and this huge wummity sound, that made many of the records (especially the 7inches) sound like they were being played at the end of a long dark tunnel with NO bright light at the end of it. sigh. At least Billy Jungle got a cheer, as it always does. The channel for the left turntable also kept cutting out. there was no crossfader, and when I tried to use the sliders instead I lost the sound half the time. So that was a bit sad. Still got some compliments and people danced. It was before midnight and most folks were touring the rooms rather than staying put.

3 sets later, Kid K fixed some of the technical issues, and generally slammed down an insane mix of tunes which had people revved up and dancing like fools. lovely fools. And DJ Lobsterclaw (formerly Heathrow) of the SoFat sound started with more shouty jungle, but switched up to "that sure is some freaky shit" grime half an hour in.

It was recorded, but I'm not optimistic about my sounds this time around. I'll have plenty of time to warm up for the monthly we are starting - first gig February 5th!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Future of Music/Policy Summit in DC

"Moving into its fifth year in 2005, the FMC Policy Summit is a forum for musicians, lawyers, academics, policymakers and music industry executives to come together to discuss and debate some of the most contentious issues surrounding digital technology, artists’ rights and the current state of the music industry."

Lots of bigwigs from politix and the recording industry are there. Not a lot of folks who represent downloaders, samplers, file sharers and all the rest.. I especially urge folks who want to argue for the right of public access to as much music as possible to try to attend.

The Future of Music Coalition offers some scholarships for musicians to attend the the FMC Policy Summit. This covers the registration fee and not travel costs and housing.

http://www.futureofmusic.org/events/summit05/scholarshipinfo.cfm

of course, all of us broke-ass experimnetal; music types are weeded out through the cost of attending.

Contradiction: People currently (doing civil disobedience)/posting uncleared samples and sample-based music and mixes online showing up to represent to establishment faces who are trying to stop us.

But even so, would be good if someone was there to trouble the waters, one way or another. The Future of Music people are pretty nice, sincere, and trying to make space for us within the system. I'm not fully convinced --especially for my kind of music-- that money will ever be made directly from phonograms. (It's rare for most of us that it ever was possible to make money -as in pay bills- through selling recordings.) But they have some nice ideas about it. Downhillbattle has some other nice ideas.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

this Saturday Jan 8: Roots Hardcore Massive!!

ROOTS HARDCORE MASSIVE Saturday, January 8 2005

::hiphop::dancehall::grime::dnb::
::jungle::breakcore::hardcore tekno::

at the OAKLAND NOODLE FACTORY
$7ransom
all ages
1255 25th Ave at Union W. Oakland

=3 rooms=
lineup of dj and live artists:
----------------------------
Fury8 (renegade virus, tbi25, nyc/oakland)
Heartworm (slum.org, digital hardcore recordings, 5lowershop, sf)
el juan hubbard (techno state, highjinx, sf)
kid kameleon (Shockout, Mashit, Soundlab)
Savage Rhythm (www.savagerhythm.com)
dj ocelot (S.P.A.Z.)
Uncle Ouija (S.P.A.Z.)
Aviatrix (5lowershop, sf)
Ripley (death$ucker, Mashit, HavocSound)
dj special moments (S.P.A.Z.)
dj Trinity (Trinity Wolf Productions, Oakland)
Seoul Roots (Filthee Immigrants)
SoFat (5lowershop, sf)
Agitate (S.P.A.Z.)
------------------------------------
& in the oracle lounge:
+ambient soundsystem, special guest djs
+coffee drinks, sushi, hand ground herbal teas, and
+free juice bar

& in the skills corner:
+local artisans vending fashion and crafts

Sunday, January 02, 2005

New Year's Eve gig - happy new year to all

The event was No Exit-New Year's Evil Party at the Spaz North Warehouse - spaz peeps hosted and held down the inside lineups, we played outside in the courtyard on the 5lowershop sound system. It was intermittently pouring all day and night, but it actually went ok. those folk have their shit together. A decent sound system, a gigantic tarp held up with poles and ropes, the dj decks set up inside Jack Clang's veggie-oil powered bus.

I had the midnight slot, and pulled together a happy crew of people, dancing on the puddled asphalt. The boy said the wind blew the center pole down at one point - i couldn't see, too busing djing - I like to think I brought down the house. Being 6foot 5, the boy was delegated to hold up the tarp until they could get the center pole (12 feet at least) up again. Heh. So he raised the roof.

Crowd was a fun mix of burning man, crusty punx, dreads, goths, and fabulous club boys slouch-slinking to West Berkeley to finish off their New Year's Eve. It's one of the first time I've seen a sizable obviously gay presence at aparty where they music was equally hardcore/breakcore/jungle, as well as the electrobreaks and booty bass (and boring techno). It seemed like the after party of choice for a good few. Mostly a white few, though. one of the few black kids I saw was in white face makeup.

Considering I couldn't hear much, set went pretty well. followed Rtype's hardcore/breakcore vibe (a real 'ein zwei drei vier' opening) - started with "party tonight" -Tanya Stephens ("cuz tomorrow the world may be over!"), into '97 Ambush, into Billy Jungle precisely at midnight.. went on for a bit in the ragga breakcore side of things, some Shitmat (all the new records of his rock so hard - heard 3 or 4 of them from various djs over the night) into the instrumental of "Big Pimpin" on 45, into the classics - the pharoah riddim, into "bombs over baghdad." That was my little polemical throwdown, mixing into "Patriotism" and the Krinjah Bam Bam remix... good fun, more jungle, breakcore and dancehall before the night was through.

Followed by Heartworm, who went from ragga into skittery noise madness.. a few more djs I wasn't really feeling, including a very rude cat who got up supposedly for a 15 minute set (he was added because other djs had cancelled), and then wouldn't get off the decks (using my headphone, by the way, which I had lent Worm) for Kid Kameleon. Also, played abolutely boring techno and cleared the dancefloor. Totally empty. Nobody wanted to hear it, and still he hung on for a while. Finally Kid K came on and livelied up the place with some ragga, some mashup fun, making the goths happy with hus Busta/Cure mashup: Close To Woo-Ha! As we left, one of the other grime champions we know, Savage Rythm, was tearin it up inside with some Lady Sovereign (bless!) and other goodness. We left at 4ish with our other grime confederate Subtek, who didn't get a chance to play here, but with whom myself and Kid K will join forces in the new year. Possibly a new monthly coming up at Nikki's - we'll get the word out on that as soon as we know.

For now, don't forget our gig on the 8th!!